Part of the series of answers to students’ podcasting questions. For more about this series, read this post.
Question from Hilary R: In Trafcom News Podcast 83, you list four things to get the best audio. One of the things you said was not using a built-in microphone to record your podcast as it doesn’t have the best audio quality, but you also talk about minding your surroundings and thinking about using noise and silence to your advantage. If you don’t have a microphone available and use a built-in microphone, but you take into consideration the room you’re recording in and the method of recording you’re using, do you think the podcast will be just as effective if the material and context is good? Do you think it’s possible to have a good podcast without having the best equipment possible?
Answer: Yes, I think you can have a very good podcast without using the best (i.e., expensive) equipment. You’ve already pointed out one factor: ambient noise. You definitely want to avoid recording in a noisy environment. Secondly, you want to make the best of what you have. For example, the built-in mic on my MacBook Pro is pretty good. If I experiment and learn where to position myself, and how loud I should speak, I will sound OK.
Before you decide to employ your built-in microphone, answer this: Do you have an iPhone? Remember that you can use the mic/headset gizmo that came with your iPhone, along with an app like iTalk or Voice Memo, to capture pretty good sound. You must be sure to position the mic properly and speak at the right volume, but that’s true with any microphone.
Keep in mind that if your content is truly excellent, people will forgive less-than-sterling quality. However, as a listener I get annoyed when supposedly influential organizations publish podcasts that sound like they were recorded in a tin can. To me, this is akin to sharing your first draft with someone. It’s not polished.
So, overall, I believe that anyone who wants to podcast professionally should invest in decent gear, but I do realize that students don’t always have the resources to buy microphones. So make the most of what you have! You might want to check out this interview with voiceover pro Joe Cipriano on Trafcom News Podcast 46. He shares some great tips for capturing audio.